Point/Counterpoint

By Jessie Fawson and Christina Coloroso

Fawson and Coloroso: A new study from the Berkeley social science department has provided much-needed insight on an age-old question: Why do some people grow up to be fanatically conservative, while others turn out to be flaming liberals?

According to the report, which tracked 95 children from youth to adulthood, children who were identified as “confident, self-reliant and resilient” most often became political liberals and the “insecure, rigid and fearful” kids became conservatives.

Fawson: So Christina, if I remember correctly, you were one of the most brilliant, creative geniuses of the third grade. You could color between the lines with the best of them and no one doubted your four-square leadership skills.

Coloroso: So true. And I remember you, my dear, as the tattletale whiner who read alone in the library during recess and judged all your potential crushes by how neatly they tucked in their shirts.

It all makes sense now. I can easily see how you grew into the gun-toting, tax-evading, friend-of-the-oil-industry that you are today.

Fawson: Right-and I can see how you became the liberal, pot-smoking, abortion-loving, pagan hippie I know and love.

Perhaps as a child, instead of searching for order and direction in the classroom, I should have embraced the free-flowing vibe of elementary school and fought the system?

Coloroso: Sure, all the cool kids did. Think about it-popular kids were the ones who rebelled and followed their own path. They were the bright, shining pillars of new ideas who fought bravely against the oppressive hall monitors and elitist sixth graders. They were accepting of diversity-not only in race and gender, but also in different levels of multiplication skills.

Fawson: Except that “following your own path” leads to pot-smoking nine out of 10 times. Thanks, Berkeley.

Coloroso: The underlying assumption of the study was that children who became politically conservative in adulthood favored highly structured environments, traditional family values and roles and competitive classroom environments. On the playground, these are the kids you would most likely hear saying something like, “finders keepers, losers weepers”-indicating their future commitment to a free-market economy.

A soon-to-be liberal, on the other hand, would say something like, “How about another chorus of ‘Kumbaya,’ fellas?”-indicating, naturally, an early dedication to social welfare and international cooperation.

Fawson: OK, Christina, let’s not get too riled up. Let’s set aside for a moment the fact that the study was conducted in Berkeley, Calif., a magical land known first and foremost for its political even-handedness.

Then remove the fact that only 95 kids were included in the study-all of whom were from the same school-and that no definitions of the supposedly studied personality traits (such as “whiner”) were actually given.

What made a child a whiner? Were you a whiner if you complained when little Sally pushed you off the monkey bars? Who wouldn’t complain? It hurt, and I still have the scars to prove it!

But when you finally get around to recognizing the fact that this study was conducted completely unscientifically, what are you left with?

Oh yeah, that’s right?crap.

Coloroso: Hey, hey, hey-one person’s crap is a liberal’s treasure! Who could ever discount the merits of a study that “conclusively” proves that liberals are the coolest people in the universe? That’s just good science right there.

Fawson: Search for your validation elsewhere, hippie. While this study seeks to answer an interesting question, the results are not scientific.

There are so many factors that influence the way a person’s political beliefs are obtained. I would like to think all of us have changed since elementary school-well, maybe not the boys.

There are hundreds of things that contribute to one’s political leaning. Though it would be nice to walk into a classroom and easily spot the tykes most likely to reject capitalism, it’s got to be more complicated than that. A political persuasion is a culmination of everything you are and everything you believe.

Coloroso: Yeah, right-“other factors.” That sounds like an excuse to me, an excuse for all those heartbroken conservative children who have just discovered that no matter how they try, they can never escape their self-loathing, insecure, unadventurous personalities. It’s crazy to think that the playground divide may never be healed.

Face it, Jess-cool kids rule, and in 2008, we’re going to rule from the White House.

It’s sheer insanity to assume that people who can think so differently from each other can ever have anything in common! This Berkeley study explains everything. We are so irreconcilably different that we can never have any respect for each other-and the reasons go back to the days of sandboxes and sippy cups!

We cannot share anything-not crayons, not values and certainly not a country. And if you don’t like it, you can go back to the corner and pout, just like you did when you were five. That’s how different we are.

Fawson: Where’s your tolerance now, flower child?

This study proves nothing, except that someone was looking for his or her 15 minutes of fame.

What we should be looking for explanations of real problems, such as why young Timmy eats paste. Does that make him a future anarchist? Of course not! It just makes him creepy and gross.

The beauty of childhood is a child’s ability to not recognize differences, not understand labels and not follow stereotypes.

For a bunch of liberal researchers at Berkeley, this sure seems like an attempt to ruin all that innocence by forcing kids to think about partisanship while they’re still in diapers.